Dealing With the Emotions of Dementia

A diagnosis of dementia can be scary for everyone involved. Learn what emotions to expect — and how loved ones can help.

Your loved one has been dealing with memory loss, confusion and losing things over the past several months. After talking with a physician, the bomb is dropped — it’s dementia. In the aftermath of the diagnosis, it’s common for both the person diagnosed and his or her caretaker to experience a wide range of emotions.

“Individuals diagnosed with dementia may be in denial regarding the diagnosis or hesitant to share their diagnosis with friends and family,” says Badia Harlin, D.N.P., M.S., B.S.N., F.N.P.-C., nurse practitioner at the Senior Health & Wellness Center at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. “They may also fear being a burden and feel a sudden loss of independence.”

Caregivers and loved ones may have similar feelings of denial. Isolation and loneliness are other common reactions, along with uncertainty about the unknown. Joining a caregiver support group can help you deal with these feelings.

No matter what you’re feeling, working through a reaction to a diagnosis can take a long time. It may be helpful to speak with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or social worker, or a trusted mentor or religious leader. Who is told about your loved one’s disease and when they are told is a personal decision.

Finding Help and Hope

As you and your loved ones begin to work through emotions, don’t lose sight of the treatment options available for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is a progressive disease. Some people progress slowly and others quickly. Regardless of how quickly the disease takes hold, staying connected to your support systems is vital.

“It’s important for both individuals with the disease and their caretakers to maintain relationships with each other and friends,” Harlin says. “Continue doing the activities you enjoy together, and each person should be open and honest about how they feel regarding the diagnosis and the disease.”

For additional support, the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline provides access to highly trained staff, day or night. Whether you need help understanding dementia, want to discuss medication and other treatment options, or need a care consultation from a master’s level clinician, the Helpline serves people with memory loss, as well as caregivers.

If you’re struggling with a loved one’s dementia diagnosis, the Senior Health & Wellness Center can provide a coordinated approach to his or her care. To learn more, call 817-250-5710 or visit TexasHealth.org.

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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